The Stories We Tell Ourselves

DSC_0728Hello Friend,

Last week I wrote to you about following your Bliss.  Your Bliss is that thing that you feel called to do, that lights you up inside and just simply feels right.  For me, this very act of writing to you and helping you explore your Bliss is the way I follow mine.  I feel called to it, and I am invigorated every time I sit down to write to you.  I asked you to open your journal and write out some thoughts on what your Bliss is, and, as usual, I hoped that you would share some of your thoughts with us in order to get the conversation started, to build a community among not just you and I, but with the other readers as well.

A reader named Alex responded with, “I’d love to follow my ‘bliss’ but I’m busy paying the bills.  Bliss is for rich people!!!!!!”  That is a lot of exclamation points!  I sincerely hope that Alex took the time to explore his Bliss before coming to the conclusion that it was impossible for him.  But his response—or some version of it– was, I believe, shared by many other readers of the post.  Asking someone about their dream life invites vulnerability, and opening up about our calling, our Bliss, certainly carries with it a personal challenge.  Inevitably, when we admit to what we believe we should be doing, we become bombarded with the recurring thought, “Why aren’t I following my calling?  Why aren’t I living my dreams?”  That is a personal challenge, and it can feel like an attack on our character.  After all, we grew up hearing, “You can be whatever you set your mind to.  If you can dream it, you can do it!”  If you believe that, and then you take me up on my challenge to uncover your Bliss, you are set up with the idea that you are capable of living your dreams, fulfilling your calling.  Sounds great, right?

Well, for most of us, the inevitable next step is to take a good long look in the mirror and realize that we are NOT following our Bliss, NOT living our dreams, NOT sticking our necks out in search of progress toward those ideals.  Most of us, if we are honest, have chosen to walk on what feels like the safer path.  To admit this does not feel so good.  It feels weak.  It feels small.  It feels cowardly.  So, we begin to tell ourselves stories to justify our current path, to justify why we can’t have what our soul is shouting out that it wants, why it is not realistic to do what really blows our hair back.

These stories are called limiting beliefs.  They usually take the form of “I am too ___________” or “I am not _____________ enough.”  You get to fill in the blanks with whatever convinces you best.  I am too old.  Too young.  Too busy.  Too poor.  Too fat.  Too thin.  Too qualified.  Too tired.  Too shy.  I’m not educated enough.  Not spiritual enough.  Not courageous enough.  Not connected enough.  Not experienced enough.  Not smart enough.  Not rich enough.  Not beautiful enough.  And on and on and on.  We tell ourselves these stories so convincingly and so often that we come to believe them to be true.  They become our narrative, and we lean on them like a sturdy crutch.  We take comfort in them like an opiate.  They stem our ambition.  They quiet the voice of our soul.  They keep us playing small.

For me, I empathize with Alex.  His answer boiled down to “I’m too busy to follow my Bliss.  I’m not rich enough to live my calling.”  These two limiting beliefs have been my most convincing stories in recent years.  I have two little kids and bills to pay.  I have leaned on that story—leaned HARD—in the service of keeping me from writing a book, starting this blog, and doing more formalized training to be a better teacher.  And believe me, these are things that I can feel in the deepest, most honest parts of me that I need to do.  My soul demands it!  But I haven’t.  That is how strong limiting beliefs are.  They can squash your calling, silence your soul, and keep you sleep-walking the safe path through life.  They are as lethal to your dreams as they are convincing to your brain.

So, what are your limiting beliefs?  What stories do you tell to justify why you don’t follow your Bliss, why you don’t heed your soul’s calling?  Get out your instrument of choice—pen, keyboard, whatever—and write it out.  Make a “I am too______” list and a “I am not _________ enough” list, and go from there.  Flesh out what your most convincing stories are.  Don’t beat yourself up and make yourself wrong for having the stories.  For now, it is enough just to name them, to own them as uniquely yours.  In the long run, it is very difficult to move beyond these stories if we do not first unveil them.  If you are willing, I would love you to leave a reply.  Tell me, what are the stories you tell?

Be well & be honest,


2 thoughts on “The Stories We Tell Ourselves

  1. Monique

    This post seemed to speak to me in ways I didn’t want to hear! But thank you for challenging me to write out my limiting beliefs that hold me back. One thing that holds me back is my age…I feel like I am too old (in my forties) to start on a new path toward what I really want to do with my life. But as you share in your post, my “soul is calling me,” and so I need to figure out how to move past my “I am too old” thinking.

    1. William Rutten Post author

      I appreciate your honesty, Monique, and as I am also in my 40s, I feel you. So I will tell you what I have to tell myself most days: THIS IS NOT A DRESS REHEARSAL! As you said, your soul is calling you. Answer it and share your symphony with us! You have many years left to be who you truly are. Don’t die with that symphony still inside you. Don’t deny yourself–or us–of your gift. It is why you are here.

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